Like most years, it took a few games for that playoffs feeling to set in. In the sixth inning of the Boston-Chicago game last night, there it was. The White Sox were up 2-0, but it felt like the series could turn right there. Home plate umpire Mark Wegner was squeezing Orlando Hernandez after Man-Ram knocked Freddy Garcia out. Ozzie Guillen was one Johnny Damon not-quite-checked swing away from getting ejected from the game. But, what do you know, El Duque came through.
And Randy Johnson didn't. I kind of feel for the Unit, even though I remain unshaken in my belief that the Yankees in general are a scourge that must be wiped from the face of the postseason. Vlad Guerrero singles on a ball well outside. Ben Molina singles on a ball a foot high. Garret Anderson homers on a ball in the dirt. You can hardly say Johnson was giving them too much of the plate. New York pitching allowed an Anaheim record 19 hits last night and now is counting on Shawn Chacon to save their season. Shawn Chacon! Ever thus to tyrants, George Steinbrenner.
The Cardinals will probably put the Padres out of their misery today while Jorge Sosa, undefeated this season on the road, will face off against Roy Oswalt in a big Game 3 in Houston. Elimination of the Red Sox and Yankees could be very good news for the Astros, who had a very good postseason last year which very few people outside of the Gulf Coast even noticed. It's difficult to get behind the Braves, however, who can't sell out playoff games. Atlantans don't deserve that team.
My preseason World Series pick of Giants vs. Yankees is this close to being completely scuttled. I'm OK with that if in means some fresh blood making it down to the final pairing. Chicago hasn't won the World Series for a while; Houston has never won it. The Braves have won one in their current run of division titles but there would be a lot of pressure on this team were they to make it to the Series; the franchise carries the burden of 14 division titles and only one championship while many of the current players haven't seen postseason action at all. The Cardinals might be the best team left but whether they face Houston or the Braves, it won't be easy.
There won't be a repeat champion in 2005, we know that much. And we're this close from the specter of another tiresome Yankee win being removed. I was kind of rooting for the Red Sox, because, well, I like their team, but now it's more about who I don't want to win: the Yankees, the Angels (they won already, and we really could stand to see less of their hack-friendly batting approach), and the Astros (because free-agent starting pitcher salaries are already quite high enough as it is). Onward, postseason!